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Sunday, June 6, 2010

May 20, 2010 all day Cape May NJ and the drive down Part one

Finally the day had arrived! After weeks of longing to be out there with the experts, our grandparents (John and Therese Goodchild) had asked us if we would like to go birding at Cape May NJ, one of the most famous birding spots in the US and only a six hour drive from Rhode Island. We were finally going to Cape May to watch the Red Knot migration and migrating songbirds! It had previously been decided that we would be birding solely by our selves but we had just recently discovered a led trip to some of the best birding spots in Cape May. Unfortunately it was very expensive for the group of us and we were only able to do one day - the rest would be spent birding by our selves like we had planned.

As we drove down the highway heading south we marveled at the diverse habitat around us and tried to identify all the birds and road kills we saw. We did pretty well seeing a few dead and living White-Tailed Deer. We saw a Peregrine Falcon on the George Washington Bridge and many other nice birds including: 1 possible Black Vulture eating on the side of the highway (we would see many more in the following days), two flocks of high flying Glossy Ibis, lots of Turkey Vultures wheeling over head (nicknamed "TVs"), Laughing Gulls everywhere flying over head and perched on lamp posts and a Yellow Warbler.

Cape May bore an amazing resemblance to both Cape Cod and Florida, two of my favorite birding hotspots. No wonder Cape May was famous for birding. We finally parked our car in the parking lot of the Grand Hotel which happened to be directly across from the sea where dolphins jumped and sharks were being pulled up by fisherman.

The beach would be the only place we were going to bird that day - after all it was around 3 pm. We walked across the road and started to scan - there were many Least and Common Terns flying lazily across the horizon. We thought we might have seen a Forster's Tern flyby which would be a lifer - we only later found out that the Forster's was one of the most common birds on the beaches of Cape May (luckily we would see many Forster's Terns on the morrow)! Laughing Gulls were everywhere: on the beach, on buildings, perched on poles, flying over head and, true to their name, laughing. We saw a Common Grackle too. Some ladies who were strolling down the beach were kind enough to point out some dolphins (or porpoises ) feeding out in the waters of the Atlantic.

We came back a bit later and had an even better experience! Laughing Gulls, a Herring Gull, Double-Crested Cormorants flying way in the distance, Least Terns, Common Terns, a flock of mystery sandpipers, Purple Martins (I am pretty sure that they were nesting at Cape May Point State Park which is famous for the raptor migration - they had a very large population of Martins and it wasn't far from where we were on this beach), a European Starling and a House Sparrow. The dolphins were still feeding out in the ocean displaying there magnificent fins to the world. But by far the most exiting moment was when, after a lot of struggling, a fisherman dragged a small two and a half foot shark onto the sand! Of course this was not his intended prey, so he threw it back - the poor creature was so stunned that he beached himself. The fisherman once again grabbed him by the tail and tossed him back in. It disappeared under the water and was gone (I find it very impressive that it took a full grown man five minutes to drag a (baby?) shark onto the beach)!

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